Normal Distribution (Bell Curve)

I don’t think the 3 million dollar strat analogy really works here. Again, obviously, if the sound isn’t compelling it isn’t worth spending anything on it. I wouldn’t judge Buchla’s based primarily on initial explorations – their architecture is such that they do take a fair amount of time to learn to tame. I would base it on works created with it by people with experience. That music may not sound different to your ears than music made with other synths. That is totally fair and reasonable. What people find compelling differs.

I had no interest in Buchla synths until fairly recently (an accidental side-effect of seeing @biminiroad’s video stream about westcat – even though a friend of mine, a very talented electronic music composer, had dropped most of the computer music tools that he had been using to focus his work on Buchla. I was so busy when that happened that I didn’t keep up with his music.

Now that I have some more time on my hands, I started listening to the 10+ years of his work that I hadn’t kept up with. There was something really compelling in the sounds. In an online discussion, someone posted this Alessandro Cortini video

Again. All a matter of taste. But there is a sort of organic vibratory quality one can coax out of the various Buchla oscillators that nothing else really has. Very “instrument” like. No wavefolder quite captures some of the unique character that Buchla’s had.

Whether the price was reasonable, component costs are not the most important thing when figuring a fair price. The cost of manufacturing and R&D relative to expected sales play a big part. His synths were by their nature not going to be mass-market hits. So, manufacturing costs were pretty high. The runs were pretty small.


All true. My point with the strat example was only that a “fair” price is subjective. Neat video BTW. The tactile interface is similar in concept to a ROLI Seaboard and much more advanced for its time.

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And pretty much every generation of Buchla’s (including the first ones in the 60s) had something along those lines.

Todd Barton has some good videos that demonstrate the ‘Buchlidian Paradigm’ and some great music that is on SoundCloud. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you aren’t familiar with his work, you might find it of interest.


I would say that I can get sounds from my used Make Noise LxD (a low pass gate under $100) that come sonically close enough for me to that particular character. In fact, I am finding that the Pulp Logic case I put together does happen to have that threshold crackle character I can hear in the Cortini video.

The other side of it though is that Buchla is an alternative universe in the sense that everything interesting in synthesis has to do with some tool box of limited parameters. Combining the finite tools produces various other universes. When you work your way back through how the modules work and fit together, you work back through vital knowledge about techniques and habits.

I put together a patch but it is still subtractive. I really don’t know how anyone could work in a west coast way with Audulus, because Audulus isn’t limited enough. We would almost need a set of modules and then just agree that you can only use those. This would force the issue.

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what do you mean “west coast way”? I also don’t know what you mean about limited parameters. While Don Buchla didn’t give access to every single internal parameter that exists behind the scenes on the circuit boards, the systems offer tons of pathways and flexibility. And the non-linear behavior of the systems results in a rather huge palette – so huge that some people get frustrated because they find the systems feel out-of-control.

A low-pass gate (in my opinion) is not going to get into the territory that I am talking about by itself. The particular thing that I am talking about is the result of the interaction between the particular waveshaping algorithm in conjunction with the waveforms of the oscillator (his triangle and sine waves are subtly different from “typical” oscillators).

Of course, Audulus can be of interest to someone interested in exploring techniques that people nowadays call West Coast synthesis (which seems to be a phrase that came into use fairly recently ). Most of what I do in Audulus has been to explore the techniques behind Buchlas (cause I can’t afford a Buchla and am interested in getting a feel for the techniques that result in the timbres that I’ve become interested in).

MakeNoise makes great stuff – and their systems certainly allow one to explore this.

The low-pass gate is just a small (though important) aspect of it.

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:roll_eyes: In a way everything you said is true, but walking away from the idea of me using @stschoen’s recent modules along with some others to catch some of the historical inroads into Don’s research into the area. Frankly, I think you are projecting a binary view onto the situation.

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Can you explain what you mean by my injecting a binary view? I don’t understand.

You implied that there is some conflict between the so-called west coast approach and Audulus. I disagreed.

I also said that a low pass gate isn’t sufficient for emulating Buchla sound that there is more to it than the low pass gate?

How is that introducing a binary point of view?


I would agree with @espiegel123 that the “West Coast” approach is much more than a LPG. While it’s true that the vactrol controlled LPG was introduced in the 200 Buchla series, it was only one of a number of interrelated techniques used by Buchla. I would say that the most fundamental difference in approach between Buchla and Moog was Buchla’s use of a wavefolder to create harmonic complexity from a source waveform with few harmonics as opposed to Moog’s approach which took a source waveform already rich in harmonic content and selectively removed harmonics via a filter.

That’s not to say that there weren’t substantial similarities in the two approaches. They both used voltage controlled oscillators producing various waveforms, VCA and VCFs with envelope generators, LFOs and other sources of modulation. More importantly, they each provided a mechanism whereby the connections between the modules producing sounds and those producing modulating signals could easily be reconfigured, allowing for a very large set of possible interconnections. The analog technologies available at the time dictated their design choices, and fortuitously resulted in much of their unique sound. Moog’s choice of the transistor ladder and Buchla’s use of a vactrol as a voltage controlled resistive element in their designs had as much to do with practicality as it did with deliberate creative intent.

In any case, the introduction of other approaches to the electronic generation of sounds starting with wavetable synthesis in the 1970s and FM/PM in the 80s has made the west coast vs. east coast debate somewhat academic. Between the classical analog subtractive approach, wave folding, sampling, wavetable scanning, and various FM and PM techniques, not to mention digital and analog delays, reverbs, flangers, phasers, etc., we are now fortunate to have a much broader set of tools at our disposal than were possible when the fathers of electronic music first began their work. Neither Moog nor Buchla were reluctant to embrace change when it suited their artistic vision. Buchla’s use of touch sensitive playing surfaces and his embrace of digital technology in the 200e series and the evolution of the Moog product line provide ample evidence.
My personal approach is best reflected in the 0-Coast philosophy. I see no benefit in restricting oneself to any particular technology or technique. If a certain set of hardware or particular creative approach speaks to one’s muse then as Joseph Campbell put it, “follow your bliss”. Creating music, whether solo or as part of a group, is a uniquely personal experience and it serves us well to be respectful of our fellow artists.

It’s important to remember that in this digital age, any musical recording, no matter how it’s produced, is likely to end up as nothing more than a very large set of numbers. In the end it’s the numbers that matter, not how they were calculated.


It is useful to draw a distinction between Moog and Buchla. I see the two of you kicking up a lot of dust. I have no interest taking this any further.


FWIW, I don’t think there was ever really some major East Coast/West Coast debate. That whole terminology as far as I can tell emerged fairly recently. None of my similarly-aged friends (we all got started working with synths in the late 60s an early 70s) that are serious synthesists can remember that terminology having been used until pretty recently (early 2000’s maybe – maybe more recently)?

People often forget that while Buchla and Serge were here in the Bay Area and Moog was on the East Coast – most of the other major American synth companies were also on the West coast (Arp, Oberheim, EMu, etc)

FWIW, AM and FM were important parts of the Buchla approach from the beginning. Though the approach was obviously different from Chowning’s. I am very curious about the Buchla 700 software emulation that is being worked on. The Buchla 700 sounds like it was an interesting synth.

Btw, I am not saying this to try to convince you that you (or anyone) should love Buchla’s. I’ve found on my own journey that there are a lot of misconceptions that have become almost canon.

I think one of the things about the Buchla/Serge (etc) approach to synthesis is that they are less initially predictable (once you start making lots of connections) than the “standard model” subtractive approach (which is what I was educated in). I don’t prefer one method over the other. And in some cases it isn’t the approach that is as important as the actual implementation.

I love MakeNoise stuff.


Yeah, I think we’ve probably squeezed all the life out of this particular topic :cowboy_hat_face: @espiegel123, good to know I’m not the only 60s acid casualty on the forum.


In academic philosophy there is a famous ‘Continental/Analytic’ split. If you actually do first hand research, you can trace the development of that difference in the work a particular thinker, just as the term “sustainable” was coined by a philosopher in the mid 80’s. Seems to me that while some of the terms are imperfect, it is all true historically. Which is to say that you can not drop the distinction without basically making up your own stories.

If you listen to a few episodes of waveform city podast, circa 2012 thereabouts, you will find that Harvestman, Rolando, Erbe, etc., are all fascinated with the Buchla modules. They will talk about vactrols and how from a manufacturing point of view they don’t make sense, etc. So much of the Eurorack stuff has been inspired by old techniques. As Mr. Rolando says, he hoped to be able to get to the point were not only could the 60’s innovations come back to light, but that there would be new progress to be made.

I really don’t appreciate your comment that

I actually said that

For one, that does not imply that the Lxd exploits all Buchla moves in the game. The cycling envelope from Pulp Logic paired with the LxD, however, is a technique that I find gets me to a spot where I feel that I am approaching some of the interesting sounds that Buchla got into.

So, you are taking some minor suggestions and molding them into some other point of view that suited the bent you were on. Maybe you could actually provide a suggestion on how exactly one goes about making a patch that would bring us into some of the territory people are willing to spend a mortgage downpayment on to get to. I mean I spent a few hours working on a patch that used @stschoen’s Buchla inspired modules. How could I improve that?

I am sorry that you took offense at my comments. They were not meant as any sort of insult or personal criticism. I think you misinterpreted my comments to be critical of you. I was simply trying to clarify that the sounds that I was talking are not primarily the result of the low-pass gate (which are certainly an aspect of the sound ). I was in no way saying that you shouldn’t be happy with the sounds you are coming up with.

Right? I am not saying there is anything wrong about what you like. If it gets you to where you want to be that is awesome.

I have not meant to imply in any way that what I like is in any way better than what someone else likes or that anyone should have be in love with the same sounds that I am in love. I have tried to make this clear throughout that this is a matter of personal preference and that many don’t share it.

I didn’t think it would be controversial to say that the aspect of sound created by Buchla systems that is compelling TO ME is more the product of waveshaping, etc than the low-pass gate by itself (as important as the low-pass gates are a part of the sound). That is not to say that YOU should find it compelling.

Since you were responding to a post from me talking about what I find unique and compelling about the sound of some Buchla systems, I thought it was reasonable to say that the low-pass gate is not the most critical aspect (though it certainly is an important part) of that sound.

That was not in any way a criticism of what you like. I was (perhaps ineptly) trying to convey that what I was talking about was a function of other aspects of the sound.

I have not meant to imply that Buchla systems are superior to other systems or that you or anyone else should find the same sounds compelling that I do.

You wrote:

So, you are taking some minor suggestions and molding them into some other point of view that suited the bent you were on. Maybe you could actually provide a suggestion on how exactly one goes about making a patch that would bring us into some of the territory people are willing to spend a mortgage downpayment on to get to. I mean I spent a few hours working on a patch that used @stschoen’s Buchla inspired modules. How could I improve that?

I am really puzzled by this comment. What suggestions am I molding into anything? I was saying nothing about what you should do or what you should like. You were responding to comments by me about what I find compelling about Buchla modules – and I was just saying that there is more to it than the low-pass gate. I am not molding any suggestion to my point of view or suggesting that you should like something different from what you like.

Every musician has equal right to like what they like. If that system gets you to where you want to go: THAT IS GREAT AND I CELEBRATE THAT!

I am not telling you what YOU should like or criticizing a single thing that you have done.

There was zero criticism of stschoen’s patches or contributions. They are awesome and I use many of his modules in my ongoing explorations AND I PLAN TO EXPLORE THESE NEW MODULES – Steve’s work is great. I love it.

And there was zero criticism of your contributions. You post great stuff.

So, I don’t understand why you are being so critical about what I wrote?

I totally get that some people aren’t as fascinated by the topic, and I don’t expect anyone else to.

You wrote:

Maybe you could actually provide a suggestion on how exactly one goes about making a patch that would bring us into some of the territory people are willing to spend a mortgage downpayment on to get to.

I have been spending months experimenting with Audulus trying to do that – and hopefully will have something to share soon.

I have to ask you.

Why would I have to be able to figure out how to create what I am after (and I have not been able to) in order to express my opinion about what I find interesting and unique about Buchla’s oscillators and waveshaping?

p.s. I apologize if this came off as some kind of rant. I am sorry if I have overstayed my welcome in this conversation.

I was not intending to post any more to this thread after both you and @stschoen said that this line of discussion had stopped being of interest. But I felt the post that I am replying to needed a response.

I really did not intend to insult or criticize you, and I feel like your response to gets personal in a way that I don’t understand.

Your post has this nice side to it. It’s the kind of cultural manners I hope to find when I start to dig into more heady subjects. So this effort to get things right and true is very appreciated. Then there is this other side where you are claiming that you don’t see a smidgen of an issue with what you were writing.

I was trying to kind of throw a few remarks out there that indicate my reservations without doing a deep surgical description of what you were claiming and what those claims were using as justifications.

Then you have this kind of ‘art is subjective’ position which, in my opinion, is basically something you never want to claim in a discussion. I don’t want to go into why. People can decide for themselves. However, try gathering 15 really smart people together to discuss art/literature/architecture/almost anything, and then see what that claim does to the discussion.

All of this I offered because I appreciate the way you were holding @stschoen’s feet to the fire even when he was distracting you with kindness and similar ‘art is subjective’ claims.

Finally, you are upping the anti, by suggesting that I am offended. It’s not that I found some moral issue in your words. It’s that I don’t read the historical period in discussion the same way you do. And I was clear on that. I think East/West is useful. I have heard other muffwigglers bash it. Frankly, I think it is worth comment but it gets taken too far.

The elephant in the room is actually whether or not there is a perceivable difference (or mechanical/electrical difference) between something ‘authentic’ and something else (Audulus, maybe). I think there are quirks in my Pulp Logic setup that are leading me into Buchla territory. And if you reread what I wrote I am not claiming to have arrived. But I feel like I am on the scent. I think part of why I am hitting the quirks is because I have been tight about having a pure analog path the whole way through, to the point where if I got a 4-track tape recorder, it would be straight analog. I believe, like I have heard Euro manufacturers claim, that the vintage character comes from bad parts.

Yes, there is the other topic of techniques and approaches which Don was uniquely useful for trailblazing. But the two topics of sonic quality and the design differences are being run together without caution which is causing unnecessary confusion – what I referred to as “dust.”

I think you are misinterpreting much of what I was trying to say. And I think you are reading more into what I was saying than was there. It is probably a failure on my part to not have been articulate enough to convey what I was trying to say. I was never debating anything about authenticity or questioning whether your setup was getting you into valuable or interesting territory or into a territory that is what you find interesting about Buchla-style synthesis. I am happy for you to be getting the sounds that you like.

I didn’t mean to get into a debate about the whole East/West Coast labeling or whether there is usefulness to this (fairly new) labeling.

Since each reply seems to take us away from what I thought we were discussing and into a discussion of the discussion, it is probably best for me to bow out of the discussion.

While I’m not inclined to pursue this further, I have to respectfully disagree with your assertion that art is somehow not subjective. Since the value of art is only in the response it evokes, it cannot be anything but subjective. It has no intrinsic value whatsoever. In any case I was not arguing (except perhaps in a peripheral sense) about art at all. I was referring to our perception of value in a more general sense. An object only has value relative to a specific person’s need or desire and is therefore subjective in nature.
I was never at odds with @espiegel123 with respect to his preference for Buchla instruments which I believe I pointed out.

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These sorts of claims have filled academic journals since their inception. There is even a movement called object oriented ontology which deeply challenges this and was somewhat hot for a while. It is a form of realism. That is, I am partial to the claims of object oriented ontology.
Right, so that is just to say I am aware of this position, but is not reflected in the work I have done on the subject. Even the best of the best right now are eagerly curious about the various points in the debate. Slavoj Zizek, the most popular living philosopher, has written massive volumes on it. So it is not so simple.

Yes am also happy to bow out. And send you some good vibes. In my line, these sorts of discussions are the heart of things. It is a lonely space and I would never recommend anyone head in that direction. There is something instinctually insulting about the idea that someone else could understand your ideas better than yourself, that isn’t insulting at all if you are a mechanic who knows more about someone’s car than they do, or a doctor, or plumber or astrophysicist or farmer. That isn’t to say that just by studying philosophy you get a secret key or something. It just means you have exhausted a lot of ideas and can see patterns in logic and reason like an architect might understand how a building functions.

I believe you mis-understand my position. I’m not arguing that an object’s existence or any of its physical characteristics are the product of human cognition, only that the very concept of value is relative. There is no independent property which characterizes the worth of an object. It is entirely dependent on the state of the observer and varies not only between observers, but varies with changes in the observer’s current state. Whether the object has some independent existence outside the scope of the observer’s perceptions is an entirely different matter, and I’m a firm believer that reality is independent of human thought. To do otherwise seems ultimately pointless.
Of course you are certainly entitled to your point of view. I remember with fondness the discussions in my philosophy class many years ago, and it seems we are no closer to universal agreement now. Perhaps that’s the very nature of the beast. The debate does tend to clarify one’s thoughts and bring into view aspects of the question at hand that may not have been previously considered.

I only said that this position is challenged by, for instance, object oriented ontology. It is a fantastic example of how I am treated. I wouldn’t go see my car mechanic and hash out some theory from shop class 30 years ago after he has just told me about how the new Teslas work. Everyone who took one philosophy class always wants to play peacemaker between people who have gone very far down paths and people who haven’t even bothered to undestand that those subjects are worked on by people as professionally competent as the engineers, the luthier, or the veterinarians. I bet you guys haven’t even heard of Wilfrid Sellars.

Okay. So you backed away from what you said before, but then you grabbed another horn.

I am going to just shrug here. With all due respect, it isn’t that simple.

As I stated before, I respectfully disagree. My reading of OOO does not seem to imply anything about the concept of value. Frankly I find it offensive that you assume that your understanding is in some way superior to that of others regardless of the extent of your study of the subject. Given that the question at hand has been debated for thousands of years, it seems unlikely that any significant progress has been made in the past 30. I gave up philosophy as irrelevant many years ago in favor of a more pragmatic approach. It’s an interesting intellectual exercise but has little relevance to the real world. You make no argument in favor of your position and instead simply obfuscate the discussion by reference to the works of others. Perhaps you have no cogent argument to make. I’m willing to grant you a fair degree of leniency because of your lack of experience, but never make the mistake of assuming that you are anyone’s intellectual superior.